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Center for Engagement and Community Development

News Features

Interactive Theatre Offers Opportunity for Children of Military Parents

K-State Engagement E-News, April 2009 (PDF)

by Jenny Barnes

The ongoing wars have caused many children stress when a parent is deployed overseas.

The ongoing wars have caused
many children stress when
a parent is deployed overseas.

With the deployment of thousands of soldiers over the past few years, many families have been left to cope with the stress that follows.

In an attempt to help children cope with the stress and raise awareness, Elaine Johannes, K-State assistant professor of family studies and human services and an Extension specialist in youth development, partnered with K-State faculty, Operation Military Kids, the army and 4-H to develop an interactive theater project.

Johannes said, "This project allows the children to express their emotions in a safe and creative way."

The project is centered on an original play "Serving at Home," written by Alissa Duncan, a K-State master's degree graduate in theater and a registered drama therapist. It is centered around Chloe, a teenage girl, whose mother is deployed. The story takes the audience through the problems the family faces and the eventual breaking point. "Talk backs" led by Sally Bailey followed the performances of the play.

Through this process, I've learned that the family side of war isn't something that's really been explored in literature," Bailey, K-State associate professor of communication studies, theater and dance, said. "For thousands of years, only the glory part of a soldier's experience was explored and only recently has the traumatic side of that experience been explored. But, the family has usually been left out."

Bailey and Duncan created a manual for how to safely create a play about life issues and it was published by FSHS Extension. The project will also be presented at several upcoming conferences.